Nick Baumgartner

Nick Baumgartner earns Olympic spot over Seth Wescott

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Nick Baumgartner cried. A fourth-grade class at Stambaugh Elementary School screamed.

Baumgartner was named to his second U.S. Olympic Team on Friday, beating out two-time Olympic champion Seth Wescott for the final spot on the men’s snowboard cross team going to Sochi.

U.S. coaches told Baumgartner he had been selected at the Winter X Games in Aspen, Colo., after he and Wescott were eliminated in the quarterfinals Friday afternoon.

Baumgartner then called Stambaugh Elementary in Iron River, Mich., where he was connected to his 9-year-old son, Landon, to spread the word.

“I was crying,” Baumgartner said. “Losing it.”

He quickly got a call back from the school, which wanted confirmation because Landon was being coy about the news. Baumgartner obliged, and he could hear the classroom’s reaction on the other end of the line.

It capped a stressful two weeks for Baumgartner, who was the top U.S. rider not to earn automatic qualification onto the Olympic Team during the World Cup season.

Three other men did, leaving one spot for the U.S. team to fill as a discretionary selection with either Baumgartner or Wescott, who was coming back from April ACL surgery.

Wescott finished 49th and 31st in his first two races back two weeks ago, but was thought to still be a Sochi candidate given he’s the only Olympic champion men’s snowboard cross has ever known.

The Winter X Games were seen as a last chance for both riders to impress selectors.

Wescott competed in Friday’s quarterfinals first, finishing fifth where the top three advanced. Baumgartner watched Wescott’s race at the top of the hill on a TV screen, cheering for him. He admires Wescott, but at the same time seeing the result put him at ease.

Ten minutes later, Baumgartner set out on his quarterfinal and also finished fifth. He was dissatisfied with his performance in the immediate aftermath, but, after making the Olympic Team, said he felt good overall.

“I was happy with my riding again here,” Baumgartner said. “I thought I rode really well, really smart and going for it. That’s what it takes to win.”

Baumgartner was still teary eyed from talking to his son when he made eye contact with Wescott for the first time after the Olympic announcement.

“[Wescott] came up, gave me a big hug and said congrats,” Baumgartner said. “He’s a role model for me. I think he should be for everyone.”

In 2010, Baumgartner accomplished his goal of making the Olympic Team. His sights are set higher this year, given he’s won X Games gold and silver since the Vancouver Games.

“Half the goal was to make the team,” Baumgartner said. “Now my goal is winning a medal and bringing it back to Michigan.”

Baumgartner joins Alex DeiboldNate Holland and Trevor Jacob on the men’s Olympic Team. The women’s team has not been announced yet, but it will include Lindsey Jacobellis and at most two more riders.

Wescott, 37, has said he will continue to compete with an eye on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. He would be the oldest snowboarder in Olympic history if he’s able to do so.

Jacobellis breaks X Games record

Yulia Stepanova, doping whistleblower, appeals her Olympic ban

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - JULY 06:  Yuliya Stepanova looks on after finishing last in the Womens 800m heats during day one of the 23rd European Athletics Championships at Olympic Stadium on July 6, 2016 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images for European Athletics )
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Russian doping whistleblower Yulia Stepanova is appealing her ban from the Olympics, saying it was based on incorrect information and dubious legal grounds.

Stepanova sent a letter to the International Olympic Committee contending she never said she wouldn’t compete for the Russian team, as the IOC stated. The IOC would not make any exception for her to compete under a neutral flag.

She says the IOC’s ban of any Russian athlete who has previously served a doping ban is not permitted – a ruling the Court of Arbitration for Sport made in 2011.

Stepanova was an 800-meter runner who got caught for doping, but later came forward to expose the Russian doping system. She served a two-year doping ban before turning whistleblower, and is now living and training in the United States at an undisclosed location.

The IOC said Stepanova did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and, because she had committed doping violations, did not satisfy the “ethical requirements” to compete in the games. However, the IOC added that it would invite her and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, to attend the games.

Both the World Anti-Doping Agency and track’s governing body, the IAAF, recommended she be allowed in the Olympics.

MORE: Russian whistleblower denied bid to compete in Rio Olympics

Gabby Douglas ‘a very strong possibility’ for all-around, Martha Karolyi says

Gabby Douglas
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Gabby Douglas has “a very strong possibility” to get a chance to defend her Olympic all-around title in Rio, U.S. national team coordinator Martha Karolyi said Monday.

“Gabby’s preparation is in a very, very good direction, and I foresee that she can be in the all-around, but we’re not taking this decision as of now yet,” Karolyi said.

The U.S. will put no more than three women from its five-woman team in the all-around in qualifying. The top two Americans in qualifying will advance to the all-around final, the most prestigious individual competition in the sport.

“We have a tentative lineup, but that’s absolutely tentative and we would not reveal that lineup at the moment yet, because most likely there will be changes as time goes,” said Karolyi, adding that the lineup won’t be finalized until next week.

Simone Biles is considered a lock to be one of the all-arounders in qualifying. Who joins her is unclear.

Douglas and Aly Raisman were tapped at the 2015 World Championships, with Biles and Douglas topping Raisman in qualifying and then going one-two in the all-around final.

However, both Raisman and first-year senior Laurie Hernandez finished higher than Douglas in the all-around at the P&G Championships and the Olympic Trials in the last month.

Karolyi said that Douglas, who fell off the balance beam on both nights at the Olympic Trials, has improved at a pre-Olympic training camp. Karolyi also said that Douglas would not perform the difficult Amanar vault in Rio, which carries five tenths more in start value than the vault Douglas used at the Olympic Trials.

Biles and Raisman both perform the Amanar. If Biles, Douglas and Raisman do the all-around in qualifying, Douglas will go in with a start-value disadvantage in the chase to grab two available final spots.

In 2012, Douglas, Raisman and Jordyn Wieber all did the all-around in qualifying, with the 2011 World all-around champion Wieber finishing third out of the Americans (and fourth overall), missing the all-around final.

MORE: USA Gymnastics agrees to buy Karolyi Ranch